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Mitt Romney Ohio Ad Stars Business Owner Who Relied Heavily On Government Contracts

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WASHINGTON -- The star of the most recent Mitt Romney campaign ad criticizing President Barack Obama for arguing that government can play a constructive role in helping business has major business dealings with government entities.

Dennis Sollmann, the owner of Sollmann Electric Company, appears in a Romney web ad released Monday morning that plays off the president's now infamous "you didn't build that" line.

“I mean, I’m thinking, 'You’ve got to be kidding me,'" Sollmann says in the ad. "He was trying to say: ‘Hey, you didn’t build that business on your own. The government helped you build it.’ And that’s what ticked me off more than anything. Mr. President, unfortunately you have no idea how we here in Midwestern Ohio have to try to run a small business from daylight till night."


An electric construction company in Sidney, Ohio, Sollmann Electric has done work on commercial, residential and industrial properties. It has also serviced "hospitals, government and educational" facilities -- many of which rely on taxpayer funding. Neither Sollmann nor his company returned a request for comment as to how much money in government contracts they have earned. But a quick Google search turned up several instances in which the company either sought out or worked directly with government entities.

According to notes from a Jan. 26, 2006 meeting of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, Sollmann Electrical Company was rewarded a $915,117 contract for work in the Trotwood-Madison City school district.

Notes from a May 31, 2007 meeting of the same body show that Sollmann Electrical Company placed a $1,080,700 bid to do work in the Dayton County School District. This was the lowest bid offered and the commission recommended that it be finalized.

According to notes from a May 25, 2010 meeting of the School Facilities Commission, meanwhile, Sollmann Electrical Company was awarded a $1,689,829 contract for work in the Miami East school district.

Sollmann was also a contractor for work on the Horace Mann School in Dayton, Ohio, according to an Ohio School Facilities Commission form filled out in April 2008. Horace Mann is a public school, an official there said.

In November of 2011, Sollmann made a $274,792 bid with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services to do work on a building expansion at Rhodes State College, another public school.

The first project listed on Sollmann's own website is the work the company did building St. Marys Memorial High School and St. Marys Middle School in St. Marys, Ohio. A St. Marys official confirmed that they are public schools housed in a complex that was recently rebuilt.

The Obama campaign has argued that Romney's attacks over the "you didn't build that" line are woefully unfair, distorting the actual meaning of the president's words.

“The latest ad out of the Romney campaign once again blatantly takes the President's words out of context, showing their campaign will do and say anything,” Jessica Kershaw, press secretary of Obama For America - Ohio, told the Dayton Daily News.

The Obama campaign may take comfort in knowing that, through these web ads, the Romney campaign is seemingly making its point for them. This is not the first time that a businessman tapped by the Romney campaign to whack the president for acknowledging the government's role in a company's economic success has, himself, relied on the government to help with his business. It was reported last week that Jack Gilchrist, the owner of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating in Hudson, N.H. who starred in another Romney ad, had received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds from the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority in 1999, as well as sub-contracts from the U.S. Navy in 2008.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified St. Marys Middle School as Memorial Middle School. The error has been corrected.

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